Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Teaching Little Women

on August 3, 2012

It was recently brought to my attention by a blog post on the Nerdy Book Blog, that

“Louisa May Alcott’s seminal work Little Woman is on the recommended list of “Texts Illustrating the Complexity, Quality, & Range of Student Reading 6-8 for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)-English Language Arts.”

First, to give a little background if you are not a teacher. The stated goal of the CCSS is to prepare students to be college and career ready. The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

One of the things the Common Core Standards will focus on which is different than in the past is that students will be expected to read more non-fiction literature and thoughtfully responding to it—50% of all reading in elementary school and 70% in high school.

You can find a great interview about reading more non-fiction literature on the INK: Interesting Non-Fiction for Kids Blog here.

The Common Core Standards in Math and English/Language Arts can be found here.

One aspect of the Common Core Standards is there is a list of recommended reading for the Core Standards. Educators do not have to use this list exclusively, but some schools are purchasing every book on the list. You can see a listing of the books for K-8 here.

Hence…back to the discussion on Little Women becoming a classroom taught book. I loved Little Women. I was so fascinated by Louisa May Alcott, that in college during my Senior Lit. Seminar, I chose Louisa May Alcott as the author I would study for my thesis paper.

Did you know that Louisa May Alcott wrote many other books and short stories beside  Little Women? Yes. She did. But it was her family story, Little Women, which became her bestseller.

You can find a great history on Little Women here.

So, if your class is studying Little Women, why not partner that book with a writing unit on personal narrative, or personal family stories? Boys may not be interested in Little Women, but I bet they can tell a great family story about something funny, gross, or scary which happened while on a family vacation.

If you are looking for great books about writing personal stories, the two I’d recommend are:

Personal Fiction Writing by Meredith Sue Willis

Jump Write In: by WritersCorps, Judith Tannenbaum, and Valerie Chow Bush

I’d also teach about Louisa May Alcott using this great video:

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

You can tour the Orchard House where Louisa May Alcott lived here.

If I was teaching Little Women, I’d be sure to focus Louisa May Alcott’s courageous strength in pursuing a writing career in a time in history when women were not writers.  And I might seek out some local writers for a panel about their writing careers (or a Skype Visit) and talk about some of the challenges they’ve overcome on the writing path.


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